Award: Research & Development Grant

Discipline: Visual Arts

Project Collaborator(s): Suzie Silver 

City/Town: Tempe

Year: 2019

Artist Website:

New interpretations of folk and fairy tales have been harbingers of social change for centuries. Despite their origins in feudal society with kings, queens, agrarian themes, and magical events, something in these tales continues both to illuminate and influence our present condition. The genre not only represents sexuality and kinship but also plays a crucial role in defining those representations as normal, especially for children.

Excerpt from Hillary Harp’s R&D Grant application

Hillary Harp’s award will support the creation of “Better Out Than In”, the third in a series of experimental gender-fluid folk tale videos created by the multi-media artist in collaboration with Pittsburgh-based artist Suzie Silver. Based on a Japanese folk tale, “Better Out than In” (BOTI) tells the story of a beautiful ingenue whose severe flatulence turns out to be a valuable super-power. Harp and Silver will present this irreverent story in the unique style they’ve developed through past video projects. Shot entirely outdoors, BOTI will suggest a renaissance masque crossed with the protest theater of Bread and Puppet, relying on pre-digital effects such as forced perspective props and set-pieces, and matte paintings, to evoke a fantastical pre-modern queer folk culture. All of the performers will be masked dancers, using gesture and movement rather than dialogue to express their roles.

The artists hope their videos. Collectively known as Fairy Fantastic! can help create a safe space for a mixed ages, non-mainstream, queer audience to gather in celebration and mutual recognition. Their ultimate goal is to serve this audience and to support the work of other artists whose work reflects and embraces such an audience.

Hilary Harp received her BFA from Parsons School of Design and her MFA from Tyler School of Art.  She creates sculptures, installations and media projects which explore hybrid forms and challenge categories of high and low, male and female, technology and craft.  Harp has been the recipient of numerous awards including a Pew Fellowship in the Arts and a Heinz Foundation Creative Heights Grant. Since 2003 Harp has collaborated with Suzie Silver on videos and media projects that celebrate their shared love of science fiction, camp sensibilities, folk culture and performance art. Their videos have screened at over one hundred festivals on five continents and are distributed by the Video Data Bank. Their ongoing collaboration, “Fairy Fantastic!” a web-based fairy and folk tale video series for gender non-conforming kids of all ages, has screened at festivals in Belarus, London, Kampala, Portugal, Romania and Australia.  Their curated screenings of experimental queer folk tale videos and queer shorts for kids are touring the US, including screenings at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, the Carnegie International Cinematheque, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and the Andy Warhol Museum. Harp is an Associate Professor of in the School of Art at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

Photo by Suzie Silver